Q: Standing at an airport carousel waiting for my luggage, I noticed two small children playing with the moving belt by running their hands along the edge. Their (I assume) mother was some distance away engaged in conversation, so I spoke sharply and firmly at the children, “Stop doing that!” And they stopped.
As expected, since my words had attracted her attention, I received a nasty rebuke from Mom. Fortunately, my bag arrived, so I grabbed it and walked away without a word. Did I handle this situation properly?
A: Although etiquette generally bans disciplining other people’s children, it makes an exception when danger of injury is imminent or even likely. Small, unattended children running their hands around moving machinery, while heavy objects hurtle toward them, amply justifies direct action. Miss Manners thanks you, even if their careless guardian did not.
Q: Help! I was accused of doing something at work that lacked manners, when in fact it was my co-worker who did it! Do I approach my boss and explain to him it was not I who did this or just let it go?
My boss is being very petty regarding a gift basket that came to the office. My co-worker opened the gift basket immediately upon its arrival and took items from it without the other co-workers seeing it, let alone before we could thank the person who sent it.
My boss went on to contact the person who sent it, and then told the person he was embarrassed by my actions and told her I have no manners! I am disgusted, as I grew up with the BEST manners.
A part of me wants to let this go. Another part of me is upset and hurt that my boss would even say those things about me! What should I do?
A: Your boss not only slandered you, he also went out of his way to do so: Without his action, the gift-giver would have had no way of knowing who had pen in hand (to thank the giver), who had miniature jam bottles, and in what order.
Miss Manners discourages “letting it go” out of concern that the behavior, if left uncorrected, is likely to be repeated. Express your shock and hurt — not your disgust or anger — to your boss. This will give you the opportunity to slip in that a co-worker was the guilty party. More important, it should ensure that you are not the subject of future denunciations.
Q: Last year, a friend’s brother passed, and I did not attend the viewing or funeral. Recently, another brother passed, and I would like to attend the viewing. Is this OK? I really don’t have a good reason why I didn’t attend last year’s funeral.
A: You may certainly attend the upcoming funeral, but please stifle your inclination to blab about why you missed the previous one. The answer you give above may be honest, but it will not comfort a grieving friend. Miss Manners trusts no one will ask about your previous failure. But if they do, your answer should be, “Yes, I know. I’m so sorry that I missed it.”
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.